There are two types of birch in Ireland, downy and silver. The most usual is the downy birch, which like silver birch is a delicate tree with fine branches and small leaves. The springtime flowers are catkins which stay on the tree and contain the mature seed by autumn.
Birch will grow in poor soils, but likes a sunny position. Downy birch is tolerant of wet sites, but silver birch needs good drainage. Birch woods occur widely, especially on marginal soils, lake edges, such as Lough Ennell Co. Westmeath, fens and on dried out bogs such as Ardkill Bog, Co. Kildare. Birch is typically associated with the Sperrins, growing in peat at the edge of bogs, and on the light sand and gravel soils.
It makes a good ornamental garden tree, as it does not grow too large. Like alder, its seeds are popular with small seed-eating birds such as siskin and redpoll. In early times toghers or walkways, usually across bog land were made from birch. Nowadays, it is more commonly used in making plywood.